There was a time when Volvo was known for its boxy cars that put one primary virtue above all others -- safety. No more, according to Hans-Olov Olsson, president and CEO of Volvo Car.
Now the new Volvo has staked out three areas where it will take a leadership role within Ford: safety, telematics and design.
Volvo is part of Ford's Premier Automotive Group of luxury brands along with Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin.
"We have to be distinctive and creative," Olsson said in a breakfast speech at the Automotive News Europe Congress in Gothenburg, Sweden, on Tuesday.
Olsson said cars such as the sleek Volvo Safety Concept Car show that Volvo does not need to sacrifice looks for occupant protection.
Located in Sweden, one of the world's leading countries for the telecommunications industry, Volvo will take advantage of its position to develop innovations such as Volvo on Call.
Volvo on Call is a system that notifies emergency agencies automatically in the event that a Volvo is involved in an accident, telling them the precise location of the vehicle.
"The challenge is to tackle the lack of international platforms for telematics," Olsson said.
Since taking over the top job at Volvo, Olsson has been leading a drive to make Volvo a premium brand on par with the likes of Mercedes-Benz and BMW.
"When you buy a premium car, you want to know why you paid extra money for it," he said.
Volvo has been showing off its new XC90 sport-utility here at the Congress. Olsson said Volvo has already sold out the rest of this year's production of the vehicle, which will be rolled out later this summer. The XC90 will cost around 40,000 euros, he said.
Olsson said Volvo will continue to take advantage of the resources of Gothenburg, which he called "Little Detroit," including relying on traditional Swedish suppliers such as airbag maker and safety systems supplier Autoliv. Maintaining ties to its Swedish roots will help Volvo preserve the distinctive essence of the brand, he said.
The Swedish automobile industry accounts directly or indirectly for 10 percent of all jobs in Sweden, Olsson said, making it crucial to the vitality of the country.
After 2004, when Volvo moves out of the NedCar factory in Born, Netherlands, it will concentrate production in two plants: Torslanda, Sweden, and Ghent, Belgium. For now, Olsson said Volvo does not need to look for further production opportunities in North America.